Now that ECU finally got their rain-delayed game against North Carolina A&T out of the way, we can talk about what things we learned from our first weekend of action in the AAC.
Oh yes, there will be offense…
12 teams played this weekend, six of them scored 30+ points, and four of them scored 40+ points.
The usual suspects were here, and Memphis, UCF and Houston combined to rack up 167 points, but Tulsa put together a 38-point game, and USF also cooked up 34 points of their own. Tulane moved the ball well and had a number of big plays.
There will be a number of shootouts and lopsided games this year. Four quarterbacks passed for 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns in week one, and four tailbacks rushed for 100+ yards and at least one touchdown.
But the conference might be even more polarized.
I say that to mean the best teams might be even better compared to the conference as a whole, in part because the worst teams might be even worse.
We saw it on full display with UCF absolutely destroying UConn. The Huskies leaned extremely hard on David Pindell, which produced some points but didn’t remotely balance out the lack of answers for UCF’s offense.
ECU couldn’t even manage to beat an FCS team. Granted North Carolina A&T is a good FCS team, but the Pirates managed to get outscored 14-3 in the fourth quarter at home against an FCS opponent. This does not bode well for the rest of the season.
Temple’s offense looked lost; Villanova had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, and poor clock management cost them another three points, otherwise, they would have pasted the Owls by something closer to a 25-10 final.
The top might be thinner as well
USF racked up 34 points, but they did it at home against Elon.
The offense didn’t look bad, nor did the defense, but the team definitely looked disinterested at times, which is never a good thing even against an FCS team that you can easily beat deslite those lapses.
Tulsa was our other 30ish point team, and while the offense produced, they were doing so against Central Arkansas. This is another up-and-coming FCS team, but an FCS team nonetheless, and it’s not the best sign that the Golden Hurricane didn’t lead by more than a single touchdown until their last score with 7 1/2 minutes left in the game.
Houston wound up pulling away from Rice, but it took them a lot longer than it should have considering where those two teams are at right now. Houston doesn’t have a sure-fire problem just yet, but they’re probably not quite top-tier good just yet.
Cincinnati might surprise some folks, though
The offense is still very much a work in progress, with a turnover setting up UCLA for an easy score in the first quarter and then their last drive of the game producing their only second-half offensive points.
But the defense, and especially Brian Wright, my goodness they’re going to cause some havoc.
They gave up only one first-half touchdown on a drive that started at their own 13-yard line, and a 74-yard touchdown run was the only other time they let UCLA get inside their 30-yard line the rest of the game.
Add in the safety that finally put the Bearcats ahead for good, and you have a strong defensive unit that could do some damage in a conference not known for its defensive prowess.
What to look for next week
The Battle for the Iron Skillet will likely see SMU getting smacked in the face with it after Saturday’s performance. What was essentially a 36-0 loss to UNT followed by 23-10 worth of garbage time scoring against the backups doesn’t bode well for a good outing against TCU.
UConn, Temple and ECU will probably struggle even more against Boise State, Buffalo and North Carolina than they did against UCF, Villanova and North Carolina A&T.
Cincinnati should handle Miami (OH) barring an emotional letdown after UCLA, and Tulane has an interesting test against a Nicholls team that knocked off Noted Power 5 Stalwart Kansas.
Speaking of Kansas, Texas will host Tulsa and probably use that game to wash Maryland out of their mouths, while UCF will continue to cruise against poor, defenseless South Carolina State.
What’s that leave that’s interesting?
Well, let me backtrack to that Tulane game. They nearly knocked off Wake Forest and will want to finish the deal against Nicholls, who is no slouch as an FCS contender.
We also start conference play, but if Navy gave up 59 points to an unexpectedly good Hawai’i offense, Memphis may do unspeakable things to them.
Houston hosting Arizona will also make for interesting football. Houston wasn’t supposed to take as long as they did to put away Rice, but Arizona outscored BYU 13-0 in the fourth quarter and still couldn’t win at home against a team that was an 11-point underdog.